UK Company Pulls Out of Controversial Kenya Biofuel Project

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Local Kenyans and environmentalists are celebrating British firm G4 Industries Limited's recent pullout from a 28,000-hectare biofuel project in Kenya that they say would have destroyed a wetland ecosystem crucial for regional wildlife, the Tana River Delta. The company said it is pulling out because of increasing evidence of environmental issues.

As the rush to boost biofuel crop production continues, arable land in Africa and other regions is being compromised for agriculture that many argue is not sustainable. In a press release, the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said about G4's announcement:

The RSPB and others have been fighting the proposals which will destroy one of the most important wetland wildlife sites in Africa. Now G4 Industries Limited, based near Cambridge, have withdrawn their proposal for a 28,000ha project at Tana, citing growing evidence of environmental issues.

The decision by G4 Industries is refreshing at a time when other companies push forward to develop biofuel crop projects with no apparent regard for consequences on local environments. RSPB says that Canadian company Bedford Biofuels Inc., for example, has started work a jatropha project, a crop that has been touted as important for biofuel, on a 10,000-hectare plot in the Tana River Delta. And that is just the pilot phase—the full plan is to develop jatropha plantations on more than 60,000 hectares in the Delta and surrounding area. Italian-owned Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited has been pushing a similar plan in Kenya's Dakatcha Woodlands.

Taking Responsibility
Executive Director of G4 Industries Mike Pond explained the reasoning behind the company's pullout from the project: “We have become increasingly concerned about the environmental implications of operations in the Tana Delta and we have now decided to withdraw from the region."

He said, “Sustainable farming is key to the world’s development but it is essential that these operations are carried out in harmony with the environment and working hand in hand with local governments and environmental organisations. This means avoiding areas of wildlife habitat and green field sites where a natural balance cannot be maintained."

He made another important point that is often overlooked: “It is interesting to note that 90% of African farming operations, particularly subsistence farming, are delivering less than 30% of the yield that could be achieved. Much work is required to address this issue.”

Tags: Africa | Agriculture | Biofuels | Energy | Kenya